One Piece review – the beloved Japanese saga lands on Netflix with a whimper Television

WWhen beloved, long-running stories are translated to a new medium, they are often caught between irritating longtime fans (who become irritated by changes made to introduce the film, series, or book to newbies) and interested newcomers (who may be confused by the material, regardless of these onboarding changes). But the new live-action version of One Piece, a decades-long Japanese comic book series that has been adapted into a beloved animated series and numerous animated feature films, might actually work well for these two audience segments. Die-hard fans of previous incarnations may simply be fascinated to see such eccentric material finally and improbably translated into flesh and blood, while Netflix surfers intrigued by a strange, pirate-centric fantasy-adventure series augmented with superpowers can rejoice in the sheer novelty factor. It’s all the other casual actors who might end up staring at the screen with a perplexed expression.

Broadly speaking, One Piece contains multiple elements seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It’s about a band of friendly outlaws searching for the unique titular treasure that will grant the title of Pirate King to whoever finds it, while they are pursued by rival pirates and unofficial marines but vaguely corrupt. But Monkey D Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) is arguably closer to signing up for VeggieTales than becoming Jack Sparrow; he’s a happy, wide-eyed, stretchy-limbed young dreamer who wants to become a pirate captain and king without stealing anything or terrorizing anyone. He is soon joined, somewhat reluctantly, by pirate-hunting swordsman Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu) and cunning thief Nami (Emily Rudd), whose stories build on each other over the course of the eight-episode season.

In other One Piece productions, such as the recent One Piece Film: Red, Monkey D Luffy is animated with such brash energy that his semi-grotesque stretching powers only accentuate his comic charm. Here, these powers are brought to life with questionable-looking CGI, and in depicting Luffy’s more human qualities, Godoy leans so heavily on naive childishness that his default smirk becomes mono-expressive.

Godoy’s performance fits into a broader shift: some actors cheerfully embody live-action cartoons, while others work in a slightly sarcastic YA register. Mackenyu and Rudd, for example, both outsource potential extravagance to their brightly colored hairstyles, downplaying Godoy’s boundless enthusiasm. Meanwhile, several supporting characters wear glasses and a mug as if they’re in a Terry Gilliam impersonation.

It’s hard to fault someone for overdoing it – or holding back, for that matter – when the show’s house style exactly mimics that giddy, heavy Gilliam sensibility, occasionally using fish-eye lenses and Incessant low-angle close-ups. Although the series notably lacks the visionary thrills of vintage Gilliam, its garishness is pleasantly unlike anything else on television. And just as the actors’ performance styles sometimes clash, the overall imagination of One Piece competes with the budget of this particular iteration, which seems lavish but perhaps still not enough. Certain settings (a sort of Gothic castle, site of a two-episode detour) and certain details (the radios and speakers only exist when powered by oversized snails, represented via puppets) make better use of than others this hodgepodge (like some unconvincing high-tech). -sea battles).

As the season progresses, Luffy’s cohort grows to include the equally excited Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson), a sniper and fabulist from a pirate lineage; and Sanji (Taz Skylar), an ambitious leader/martial artist, whose origin is a late season highlight. In contemporary streaming style, large stretches of the first season focus on a setup that once would have been reserved for a perhaps double pilot episode. With so much backstory and table setting, time for episodic adventures ends up being limited – a shame, as the series’ fresh-faced ensemble and general weirdness would suit a quest-of-the-week format well. .

When One Piece attempts to bring its disparate elements together into a larger overarching theme, it attempts to address an older generation’s reluctance to cede their power to younger ones; when he’s followed up with child-like nonsense about the importance of following your dreams, it all seems pretty flippant. The recent One Piece: Red film is, overall, much stranger and more manic – but also, in its mania, a more powerful emotional experience. Maybe it’s the bad luck of attracting bad guys; Red’s villain is deeply empathetic, more misguided than the mastermind, while one of the Netflix series’ current villains is a self-destructive pirate called Buggy the Clown. Yet even in the face of such flights of fancy lost in translation, there remains something oddly enjoyable about One Piece’s conceptual madness and Hot Topic optimism, even when it feels like half-measures. Calling it really good would be a stretch worthy of Monkey D Luffy’s rubbery limbs. However, to call it boring would be pure dishonesty.

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